Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Trials and tribulations

Tuesday 22 December

As endurance tests go, 2015 has certainly made its mark.

Back in 2014, after a year which had seen Amanda go through aggressive chemo and radiotherapy for her breast cancer and, right at the end - on December 20th to be precise - my dad fell over at home and broke his hip. We thought then what a particularly unwelcome year 2014 had been.

Amanda's own journey throughout the year has already been well documented on this blog, and for the time being, she is as well as can be expected (see her latest blog update here from 21st December 2015: http://ukbreastcancertips.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/its-christmas-time.html )

Dad has been in and out of hospital three times throughout 2015. There were huge problems with his post operation recovery - a particularly nasty infection didn't help things leading him needing to have a replacement half-hip. Dad's issues have been compounded along the way with his Parkinson's Disease. In fact...and get this...in August, he had to have the ball joint at the top of his hip removed. This was because his Parkinson's Disease was causing his ball joint to vibrate so violently against the ball socket. The ball joint has been cemented to the hip bone, causing his right leg to be three inches shorter than the left. Dad came out of hospital in September and is very slowly recuperating. He's had two special shoes made with a platform sole (just like the ones he used to wear in the 1970s no doubt) which stabilises him. He can shuffle around downstairs in mum and dad's semi-detached with the aid of a walking frame and we're hoping that the recent introduction of a stairlift will give him a little more independence to get around the house and partake in crazy high speeds stunts upstairs too.

My mum visited dad every single day he was in hospital throughout the year, however this took its toll in an incredibly difficult to understand manner. A month after dad's discharge, mum started to feel the pace, she found it increasingly difficult to help with the day to day looking after of my dad at home, despite the daily visits from our local social services care team. Mum's started to get breathless slightly more (controlled and..as it turns out...masking some conditions...by an inhaler). In November, we noted quite a considerable weight loss in a short period of time. It's not good news for my mum unfortunately. We've learned she now has advanced lung cancer which has spread to the liver and bones. She started chemo treatment very quickly (December 15, 2015). Despite three relatively good days post-chemo, she's since been admitted into the Cancer Centre suffering from a high temperature and infection. My sister is struggling right now as she has a pretty bad cold which means she can't get to visit either mum or dad due to the risk of infection - as mum's blood count is low due to chemo, she's far more susceptible to catching colds and the like and my sister cannot risk visiting.

Dad was in hospital on for a while on Christmas Day 2014, and although we're hoping for the best, there's a good chance mum may well be there too this coming Christmas Day. ((Update 22nd December 5.03pm Confirmed that mum will be in hospital for Christmas Day)

Mum (76) and dad (78), until fairly recently, have enjoyed healthy lives, and as most sons and daughters who have been lucky enough to have had their parents around for this amount of time as we have, will testify that they like to see their parents as the most loving, strong people you could ever have in your lives. Things won't ever be the same again.

Amanda mentions on her blog  about the whole 'brave' issue when referring to cancer. I came across this story very early today when prepping for this blog update and Heather's words put the whole "cancer" thing to bed quite nicely. "And don’t say I lost to cancer. Because cancer may have taken almost everything from me, but it never took my love or my hope or my joy. It wasn’t a “battle” it was just life, which is often brutally random and unfair, and that’s simply how it goes sometimes. I didn’t lose, dammit. The way I lived for years with cancer is something I consider a pretty big victory."

As a sidenote, mum has been referred to the same palliative care team at our local hospice that Amanda has been referred to. Cancer - it just keeps giving, doesn't it?

Christmas 2015 for me? Bah humbug.

2015 dealt us some pretty rubbish news all the way through. I worked out I visited hospital every single calendar month. 2016 will be worse. We're treading water right now balancing everything between us with all the demands being thrown at us left, right and centre.


Update - I mentioned in a previous blog entry ( http://ukbreastcancertips.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/ebay-auction-of-collectable-shoegaze.html) that an auction was taking place to raise funds for our local hospice that is providing support to Amanda (and now my mother). I genuinely didn't know how much the auction would raise. £50? perhaps even if we were really lucky £100?
Through extensive sharing on Facebook & Twitter, Richard - the auction host - was able to get over £250 for the auction, which in my eyes is pretty stunning work. The winner even paid an extra £50 to the auction, so with Gift Aid factored in, that's £382.50 raised for Douglas MacMillan. 
I've never met Richard, but hope to do so next year when some of our musical heroes meet up for their first gig for 20 years, but I can't thank him enough for what he has done in helping raise money for our local hospice.

Monday, 21 December 2015

It's Christmas time...

So, it's very nearly Christmas and I am SO excited. Festivities were kicked off with a beautiful candle-lit Carol concert at my church, St. Lawrence's, on Sunday evening, and I spent lots of precious time with friends and family over the weekend. In particular you'll be pleased to hear that I am now on first-name terms with everyone at my local spa.

In other news, after a torturous wait, I have now developed actual hair. I still have an inverted Widow's Peak and local children get excited when they see me, as my cheeks are still the size of two miniature bean bags, but things are slowly improving. It has at least been a good lesson in humility and patience (neither of which I am famed for).

Things have been also been tough for the family over the last few weeks, especially for my lovely mother-in-law who is having debilitating cancer treatment and is currently in hospital. I've always hated being called "brave"' but I can see now from a different perspective how strength and sheer will is guiding her to be strong for us when it's the last thing she wants to do. I hope and pray that she's back out of hospital for Christmas.


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Ebay auction of collectable shoegaze treats

Wednesday 9th December

As many of you who know me will testify, I have an unhealthy, obsessive passion with a niche musical genre known as 'shoegaze'.

What is shoegaze? Take a look at this concise description(s) from Urban Dictionary

One of my Facebook connections, Richard Lewis,  who I've had plenty of dealings with over recent months approached me a while back with a suggestion that he gets a few bits of hisprized memorabilia signed by shoegaze legends Slowdive . Yes THAT Slowdive....

Over the course of the last few weeks, and capitalising on a few days when the band were all together recording somewhere in the deepest, darkest recesses of the West Country, not only was able to secure the much sorted signatures of all the band members, he was also very kindly able to secure some goodies from Slowdive which the band have very kindly autographed too. While it's not going to raise as much money as a toenail from one of One Direction (at least I don't think it will, who knows for sure?), the package that Richard has been able to source will be of considerable interest to all shoegaze fans out there and contains so much of interest to collectors:

The vinyl is unplayed, It's graded as  Excellent condition and it will be supplied with a wrap-around proof sleeve, too. The white card cover has a couple of bends, so will grade it at VG.The Ride/Slowdive split 7" is on blue vinyl and is in excellent condition, the thin paper cover is quite creased so graded it as VG.”  Both the 7" and 12" vinyl are reservedly graded.

This auction runs through to 19th December 2015 at 6.01pm UK time. Take a look at the auction via the Ebay page here >>> http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/-/291635325996

Richard has agreed to donate all proceeds of this Ebay auction to the Douglas MacMillan Hospice, who are already providing much needed support to Amanda and myself and will continue to do so however long our journey goes on for. Seeing as I've never met Richard before, this is an incredibly generous thing for him to do and we pass on our eternal gratitude. Richard - you're a fine, fine person.

If you know anyone who would be interested in bidding for this highly collectable package, please share this blog post with them.
Many thanks for reading

Dean (Amanda's husband)

Monday, 7 December 2015

Going to the chapel...

Today was a super special day. As a complete surprise, and with a lot of help from Charlotte, Kath and Cecilia, Dean and I renewed our vows in Exeter College Chapel this afternoon. 

It was an incredibly poignant and unforgettable service, made all the more special by the resonance of our promises to each other despite the circumstances. In spite of the sadness of today, it was also really uplifting and reminded us how lucky we are to have found each other.


Dining Hall at Exeter College - the 6 of us had a fantastic meal from the balcony where this photo was taken. Looking towards the top table where we were sat during our wedding breakfast in 2010.

The Chapel, Exeter College, Oxford.
Married here 24th July 2010
Renewal & blessing of our vows here 7th December 2015

The rather splendid interior of The Chapel, Exeter College, Oxford

Christmas decoration high in the sky in The Chapel, Exeter College, Oxford

Friday, 4 December 2015

There's no better time to expect a miracle than Christmas

I wasn’t expecting to write another blog so soon after my last one, but I was so upset after reading Amanda’s blog last night that I felt prompted to respond in some way. Amanda is being so incredibly brave under such extreme circumstances, but to see her put in print that she is expecting this to be her last Christmas is unbelievably painful. I hope and pray with all my heart that it isn’t, and I’m asking God for a miracle. As a family we deserve one! As Amanda says [and our counsellor], we need to live for the moment and not to look into the future as no one knows what that it holds for us. The bible advises us not to look too far ahead, and I can truly understand why it does. Christmas Day has always been so special for our family, and this one will definitely be no exception. Last year was the very first Christmas that we’d spent away from home. Amanda and Dean had decided to spend Christmas at their villa in Spain, and we decided to join them. We had a brilliant time, and I haven’t given up hope of doing it again. Amanda and Dean have always adored their time there, and to join them again in the future would be incredible! I believe that we will! This Christmas Day will be our usual family Christmas Day. My wife and I will spend Christmas Eve putting the presents out in preparation for the big day; and Amanda will have the most presents, filling the settee as usual. Christmas morning will be a full English breakfast followed by Amanda and I going to church. After taking wreaths to various cemeteries in the City, we then get home to a present opening ceremony with lots of laughing! Christmas dinner carefully prepared by my wife will be enjoyed after certain traditional speeches are undertaken. We’ve always done this, and always will, its great! My previous blog emphasised the need for doing the simple things as you would normally do in tremendously difficult times, and this Christmas will follow those advisory guidelines, albeit this year in a very emotional way for our very, very special daughter.

Amanda's Dad

Thursday, 3 December 2015

And so this is Christmas

As my last Christmas looms I'm actually really excited, despite the circumstances. There is so much that I love about Christmas from Christingles to Carols, that I'm actually really looking forward to it.

However, this is likely to be a really challenging time for my family and friends, and each moment will be precious, if bitter-sweet. So what are my tips to make this Christmas an extra special one? 

Firstly, the plan is to have as 'normal' a Christmas as possible. The best Christmases have always been the simple ones. We've got loads of traditions we follow as a family, from going to the cemetery to going to the Christmas day church service. These are very precious to us and none moreso than this year. 

We're also going to share experiences rather than give presents. I'd much rather add some more special moments to my over-flowing memory banks than to accumulate more 'stuff'.  

It will also be a time of reflection that my life, albeit shorter than anticipated, has been wonderful in so many ways. So, this Christmas will be no different than usual, full of love and laughter and I hope yours will be the same.